Ten years after the Annan Plan, it seems that we are entering in the substantive phase of a new effort for the resolution of the Cyprus Issue, with intense involvement of international factors and most of all, of the US. Hellenism, Greek and Cypriot, will soon find themselves at the crossroads of a major strategic choice.
The Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu, recently made a joint statement that will open the way for the resumption of UN-sponsored talks to reunite the island. The establishment of an agreement from Anastasiades came after his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The joint statement paves the way for dialogue aiming at a resolution and designates parameters for a solution. When last the tug-of-war of the Joint Statement began last September, no one could imagine that it would end up needing a grand total of 48 changes which were transferred between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, sometimes directly and sometimes through third parties. This turned the attention to the need of the existence of a Joint Statement with concrete references for one sovereignty, one nationality and one international personality.
However, since the period of June- July, when the first wave of the economic crisis and the shock of the decision of March 17th, 2013 (that opened the path for the haircut of the Cypriot deposits) had started to shatter, Anastasiades started sending messages to every person that was involved in the project, saying that Nicosia was ready to negotiate.
He especially emphasized two pressing points.
Firstly, a direct communication channel between Nicosia and Ankara is urgently needed. This was the reason for which the Turkish Cypriots asked, in order to guarantee a certain balance, to have their own channel with Athens. This is how the “crosswise” meetings, that began at the end of February, between the negotiators of both sides took place.
Secondly, that Alexander Downer should secede his position. The Australian citizen and Former United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, had been classified as persona non grata, not only because of his openly friendly stance on Turkey, but also because of the leakage of a file concerning the convergence that had been obtained since the Christophia- Talat talks.
On the 30th of January 2014 The Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 31 July 2014. Unanimously adopting resolution 2135 (2014), the Council urged the two sides to implement confidence-building measures, stating that it looked forward to agreement and implementation of further steps, including military confidence-building measures and the opening of other crossing points on the Green Line. The presence of the UN remains of vital importance for the stability of the island. UNFICYP was originally set up by the Security Council in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. After the hostilities of 1974, the Council has mandated the Force to perform certain additional functions. In the absence of a political settlement to the Cyprus problem, UNFICYP has remained on the island to supervise ceasefire lines, maintain a buffer zone, undertake humanitarian activities and support the good offices mission of the Secretary-General.
At the United Nations, the key person seems to be Jeffrey Feltman, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
It is evident that the US is playing a crucial role in this situation. A deal on the Cyprus Issue would consequently contribute to the amelioration of Israeli-Turkish relations, something that the US strongly desires. Also, it is obvious that Washington has concluded with the assessment that normality and stability in the “flammable” region of the Eastern Mediterranean- and consequently the US interests in the region- are served by the creation of a peculiar axis that includes Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. Moreover, this would help the US to retreat its presence from the region and concentrate on the power correlations in East Asia.
The US has stated that it is ready to play a “supportive role” for the solution of the Cyprus Issue as it estimates that the conditions are right for something like this. In fact, the US has started working towards this direction from the sidelines. The conjunction of the signature of the Joint Statement, after the visit of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in Cyprus seems to not have had the desired effect. Now, it is possible for John Kerry to undertake a diplomatic initiative himself. The willingness of the Cypriot Government for the attainment of a solution is in the same direction with US interests, which is pursuing an accord as soon as possible, so a hearth of instability in a challenging area can be effaced and the energy resources of the Cypriot EEZ can be utilized.
According to certain information, Nicosia pursued the active entanglement of the US along with that of the EU, in order to accelerate the process. The update of the role of the European community is relevant to the acquis communautaire, though Brussels have shown that they are flexible at this point. But the US appears to be able to steer the diplomatic baguette from the first line, probably for the first time after 1978 and the so-called American- British- Canadian Plan (ABC Plan).
As history has taught us, the Cyprus Issue is not only the top national issue for Greece. It has repercussions on domestic developments too. Not only does Athens have a role and a voice, which are the result of the historic bonds of Greeks and Greek Cypriots, but also the institutional responsibility, as it is one of the guarantors. Athens has to participate actively in the talks and not only at the level of the contacts with the Turkish Cypriot representative but also regarding the stance of the Prime Minister.
With this rationale of the defense of national interests, the Prime Minister has to take a stance in the important developments concerning the Cyprus issue. As allies and partners coerce for an active role of Athens, Samaras has a considerable advantage. Given his past, he could hardly be accused (on a domestic level) of “selling” Cyprus. It is a dimension that might probably be of definitive importance and which has to be taken into consideration by the protagonists of the International Community so as to be used to their advantage, offering the rewards that will allow him to consent.
The full text is “The two leaders had their first meeting today under the auspices of the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices mission”. The meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere and the two leaders have agreed to the following:
1. The current status quo is unacceptable and its prolongation will have negative consequences for the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The leaders affirmed that a settlement would have a positive impact on the entire region. First and foremost it would benefit Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, respecting democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as each other’s distinct identity and integrity and ensuring their common future in a united Cyprus within the European Union.
2. The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner. All unresolved core issues will be on the table and will be discussed interdependently. The leaders will aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible and hold separate simultaneous referenda thereafter.
3. The settlement will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements. The united Cyprus, as a member of the United Nations and of the European Union, shall have a single, international legal personality and a single sovereignty which is defined as the sovereignty which is enjoyed by all members States of the United Nations, under the UN Charter and which emanates equally from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. There will be a single united Cyprus citizenship, regulated by federal law. All citizens of the United Cyprus shall also be citizens of either the Greek-Cypriot constituent state or the Turkish-Cypriot constituent state. This status shall be internal and shall complement and not substitute in any way the united Cyprus citizenship.
The powers of the federal government and like matters that are clearly incidental to its specified powers, will be assigned by the constitution. The Federal constitution will also provide for the residual powers to be exercised by the constituent states. The constituent states will exercise fully and irrevocably all their powers, free from encroachment by the federal government. The federal laws will not encroach upon constituent state laws within the constituent states’ area of competences and the constituent states’ laws will not encroach upon the federal laws within the federal government’s competences. Any dispute in respect thereof will be adjudicated finally by the Federal Supreme Court. Neither side may claim authority or jurisdiction over the other.
4. The united Cyprus federation shall result from the establishment following the settlement’s approval by separate simultaneous referenda. The federal constitution shall prescribe that the united Cyprus federation shall be composed of two constituent states of equal status. The bi-zonal, bi-communal nature of the federation and the principles upon which the EU is founded will be safeguarded and respected throughout the island. The Federal constitution shall be the supreme law of the land and will be binding on all the federation’s authorities and on the constituent states. Union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession or any other unilateral change to the state of affairs will be prohibited.
5. The negotiations are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
6. The appointed representatives are fully empowered to discuss any issue at any time and should enjoy parallel access to all stakeholders and interested parties in the process, as needed. The leaders of the two communities will meet as often as needed. They retain the ultimate decision-making power. Only an agreement freely reached by the leaders may be put to separate simultaneous referenda. Any kind of arbitration is excluded.
7. The sides will seek to create a positive atmosphere to ensure the talks succeed. They commit to avoid blame games or other negative public comments on the negotiations. They also commit to efforts to implement confidence building measures that will provide dynamic impetus to the prospect for a united Cyprus.”
Despite the aforementioned settlement agreements, there are some factors that should be taken into account. Negotiations are taking place during the most unpropitious moment of the Greek and the Cypriot Greek side since the 1974 invasion. Both are in a debt settlement with reduced sovereignty and direct dependence by their lenders. For first time, it talks about constituent states and not units or entities. The double meaning of the term facilitates the most powerful and leads to a substantive Confederation, no matter how this module will be named. It doesn’t set as a final goal the withdrawal of the troops and the lifting of the colonial regime of guarantees. Furthermore it foresees the vital end of the negotiations, as the package should conclude by taking into consideration the instability in the East Mediterranean and the disposition of Israel and the US not to put all the energy “eggs” in a single basket, be it Turkish or Cypriot.
The mishandling of the management of the economic crisis did not teach the involved leaderships that they should include in the game all the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council and at the strategic correlations and not to ask for help at the last moment. Who knows if things will change this time, the future will confirm the results.